The sixth-generation Branca on family heritage, life lessons, and the business’s enduring legacy
Born and raised in Milan — the home of Fernet-Branca for 173 years — Edoardo Branca, the sixth-generation descendant of Bernardino Branca, is the U.S. manager of the Fratelli Branca Group. His role is to represent the brand in the United States and Australia, sharing the wonders of his family’s renowned spirit wherever he goes.
We’re pleased to share a glimpse into the life of this distinguished man, including his worldview on life and business, his open-mindedness to the wonders of libations, lessons he’s learned from his ancestors, and the wisdom he hopes to pass on to the next generation of Brancas one day.
“I think the world is beautiful, and Fernet-Branca represents the world. It’s a sip of the world inside a glass.”
On his early, non-Branca career
“I lived and breathed [Fernet-Branca] for the first 14, 15 years of my life,” Edoardo says. “Then I became a teenager, and like a lot of teenagers, I was going against everything and everyone.” He went on to spend a half-dozen years working in the banking industry, but the lure of family heritage proved too strong. As he once said, “Step by step, my father taught me the values and the legacy. When I entered the company, I was very proud. I really understand the tradition and what my father was carrying on.” In a short time, it was clear he’d made the right decision: “Banking was nice,” he says, “but working in the spirits business is so much more fun.”
Edoardo MC-ing the 11th annual Barback Games & Expo in San Francisco (photo by Tod Seelie)
On trying his first Fernet-Branca cocktail
For most of his life, Edoardo only drank his family’s libation neat. It took traveling and meeting many new people to open his mind to other options. “The typical Fernet-Branca drinker is a little bit different, has a little bit more curiosity,” he says. “I meet so many people who love the brand and are really engaged in it.” Devotees regularly show him their Fernet-Branca tattoos, regale him with their Fernet-Branca tales, and convince him to try their custom Fernet-Branca cocktails.
A Fernet-Branca cocktail called "Cassanova" (photo by Scott Heins)
“The first time I went to Australia, France, England, I spoke to bartenders and mixologists, and they gave me an understanding of my product that was completely different,” he says. The first time he tried Fernet-Branca in a mixed drink was in Australia. “I tasted it and my brain kind of exploded. It was unbelievable.” As he toldFood Republic, he was thrilled to learn that “you can do such amazing stuff with Fernet-Branca. I was so surprised and it brought me to a completely new level.”
On the international appeal of his work
Fernet-Branca is made from 27 herbs, spices, flowers, and roots that originate from all over the world, including cinnamon, saffron, myrrh, and rhubarb. Over the company’s 173 years, representatives have sailed and, later, flown across the world to source and tend these ingredients, leading to the company’s international development. “I’m a citizen of the world because I think the world is beautiful,” Edoardo says, “and Fernet-Branca represents the world. Milan is where we gather all the herbs, but Fernet-Branca is a sip of the world inside a glass.”
On the top-secret Fernet-Branca recipe
For nearly two centuries, the specific proportion of ingredients in Fernet-Branca has been a closely guarded family secret. The recipe is passed on to the next generation over a slow process: “You sit down in a rito di passaggio [rite of passage],” Edoardo has explained. Over the years, each father (or, on one occasion, mother) took his son into a secure room to show him the exact ingredients, the particular measurements, and the complex techniques necessary to process them. This intergenerational demonstration is repeated as many times as it takes to fully pass on this crucially important information. According to Edoardo, “It’s a very slow transition. But the first time is very emotional.”
Edoardo with his father, Niccoló Branca
On libations literature
In 2015, Edoardo released his first book, Branca: A Spirited Italian Icon, a beautiful, richly illustrated tome covering the history of his family’s distillery, shown through poster art and advertising campaigns the brand has created over the years. He spent several months touring the U.S. in support of the book, touching down in several cities, from San Francisco to NYC, to share fascinating facts about the liqueur’s legacy.
On the pressures of running such a venerable company
Edoardo emphasizes that it’s not a foregone conclusion for him to inherit the business — his father will make that choice when he’s ready. Or, Edoardo suggests with a laugh, “I might decide to retire and open a chiranguito in Brazil!” But, “If one day it will be me in charge, I think there is going to be a good kind of pressure, one that motivates [me] to grow the company with the values that the past generations have given me and the teachings I’ve had from my father since the beginning.”
On lessons learned from his father
One might expect a relationship like the Brancas’ to focus on business at every opportunity, but that’s not at all the case. “One of the most important things that I learned from my father is to be a good person,” Edoardo says. “My father taught me that profit is important, but it’s not everything in life.”
“My father taught me that profit is important, but it’s not everything in life.”
The Branca distillery in Milan
On passing down his own legacy
Edoardo recently became a father. Reflecting on whether he hopes his daughter will follow in his footsteps one day, he says, “I want her to do whatever she wants to do. I think it has to be something that she wants, to come in and work in the family business. If she wants to be a painter or a musician or a banker like her father was, I want her to be happy and follow her dreams.”
On working in an actual museum
The Fernet-Branca factory was opened in its current location in 1910. In the early 2000s, Edoardo’s father Niccoló decided to convert some of the large factory building into the Fernet-Branca Museum. The museum, which was inaugurated in 2009, is filled with memorabilia, merchandise, and displays from the company’s 173 years. There is also a hall of portraits, lined by the visages of all of Edoardo’s ancestors, and that’s the hall he walks down every time he goes into his Milan office. “It’s very emotional,” he says. “You have this feeling of your whole family looking over your shoulder. I think they give [me] help in [my] everyday work.”
Edoardo's grandfather, Pierluigi Branca
Beneath the museum, the distillery remains operational, permeating the entire building with the unique scent of Fernet-Branca. “When you have bad days at work, it’s worth a lot to go downstairs and breathe,” says Edoardo. “Then you come back up and you can work more, and harder, with a big smile on your face, because you know [what’s] underneath you, and it’s amazing.”
To hear from some of the food & drink world’s heritage families, go here.
To sip 5 distinguished drinks inspired by heritage and history, click here.
To read about chefs preserving family traditions through food, go here.
To read about sisters making new business traditions, click here.
is a writer, editor, cultural hipstorian [sic], and the author of Brooklyn Spaces: 50 Hubs of Culture & Creativity. Her writing has appeared on Slate, Atlas Obscura, New York Post, Matador, Hyperallergic, Gothamist, Curbed, Brooklyn Magazine, Brooklyn Based, and more.